THE DARK AGES 119 churches the necessity for correctness in the copies of the Scrip- tures and the service books they used. To a collection of Homilies, corrected by Paulus Diaconus, which he caused to be distributed among the churches in 782, he prefaced these notable words: " Desirous as we are of improving the condition of the churches, we impose on ourselves the task of reviving with the utmost zeal the study of letters, well-nigh extinguished through the neglect of our ancestors. We charge all our subjects, so far as they may be able, to cultivate the liberal arts, and we set them the example."* In this injunction, which would seem to have been among his earliest attempts at raising the standards of education, are to be discerned the characteristic features of all his subsequent policy. He aimed at the elevation of the whole people, but directed attention in the first instance to the clergy as their proper instructors. The Italian scholars were not very well fitted to guide the educational affairs of a people whom they must have regarded as rude barbarians. Charles was supremely fortunate, however, in Alcuin (circa 735-804), his next adviser, who was master of the Palace School and chief education minister of the kingdom from 782 to 796. Alcuin not only came from a people closely akin to the Franks, but he brought with him the English tradition of scholarship at its best. Born in a noble Northumbrian family about 735, the year of Bede's death, he had been a pupil in the school at York at the time when learning was most flourishing in the north of England. There, it might be said of him, as has been said of Bede, two generations before him, he " enjoyed advantages which could not perhaps have been found anywhere else in Europe at the time—perfect access to all the existing sources of learning in the West ... the Irish, the Roman, the Gallican, and the > Canterbury learning,"! &&& ^e profited by his opportunities. He became the most distinguished pupil of the school and when his master Albert became archbishop he was ordained a deacon and became head of the school himself in 776. His new duties in the service of Charles were of a varied character. An important one was the supervision of the Palace School, which he conducted with the help of three disciples who * Mullinger, The Schools of Charles the Great, p. 101. t Dictionary of Christian Biography, article on Bede by Bishop Stubbs, quoted West, Alcuin, p. 29.